Conservative and Labour MPs join forces to stop Theresa May pursuing no-deal Brexit

‘No deal has always been a bad deal. It’s time that MPs show they won’t allow a no-deal situation to unfold’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 20 December 2018 17:24
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Tory and Labour MPs have joined forces in an attempt to stop Theresa May taking the UK out of the EU without a deal, starting with a showdown vote early in the new year.

The move – which follows the prime minister ramping up no-deal Brexit planning, as her deal faces defeat – is intended to be the first of many ambushes to put parliament in control.

“No deal has always been a bad deal. It’s time that MPs show they won’t allow a no-deal situation to unfold,” Nicky Morgan, the former Conservative education secretary, told The Independent.

The group of MPs includes fellow Tories Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles, as well as Labour big-hitters Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn, Rachel Reeves and Harriet Harman.

They have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill, to be debated on 8 January, that would prevent any new taxes earmarked for no-deal preparations without the consent of the Commons.

Similar amendments are planned to other bills due in the new year, including on trade, fisheries and arrangements for health treatment in the EU after Brexit.

However, the more important aim is to provide a vehicle for the Commons to display its opposition to a no-deal Brexit, preferably before the “meaningful vote” in January.

Ms Cooper said: “The government should rule out no deal as the risks to our economy and security are too great.

“If they won’t, then parliament must find different ways to avoid a no-deal cliff edge instead – starting with this cross-party amendment I’ve tabled to the Finance Bill for 8 January.”

The bid to amend the bill follows a refusal by Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, to announce the new date for the meaningful vote, leaving MPs in the dark.

Ms Leadsom would only reveal the start date (9 January) of a fresh debate on the motion to approve or reject the deal.

She refused to guarantee the vote would take place in the week beginning 14 January – as Ms May has promised – instead referencing the debate by saying: “It will be coming back in the first week back.”

Scores of Tory MPs are still threatening to vote down the prime minister’s deal, after the EU’s outright rejection of legal changes to allow the UK to break free of the Irish border backstop.

As the deadlock continues, Ms May has switched back to highlighting her willingness to accept crashing out of the EU if necessary, announcing £4bn of extra government spending on preparations.

Plans to ensure vital food and medical supplies do not run out will be enacted and around six million British businesses will be urged to trigger their own contingency plans.

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, put 3,500 troops on standby to “support any government department on any contingencies they may need”.

However, several cabinet ministers – Philip Hammond, the chancellor, David Gauke, the justice secretary, and Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary – have made clear they will not support a no-deal Brexit.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told cabinet that patients could die – and the National Audit Office has concluded it is already too late to prepare Britain’s ports.

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